A TV ad industry trade group representing most major U.S. networks, is putting pressure on Nielsen over the measurement firm’s decision to delay its incorporation of out-of-home data into overall ratings.
Sean Cunningham, CEO of the Video Advertising Bureau, conveyed push-back from what he called “the 14 largest multiscreen TV ad sales organizations” in a letter sent Thursday to Nielsen CEO Dave Kenny.
Earlier in the day, Kenny had informed clients of the plan to put the initiative on hold, a decision he attributed to COVID-19, which has shut down many places that would be measured, like bars, offices and hotels. “With future uncertainty around how the pandemic will further impact out-of-home viewing, Fall 2020 is not the ideal time to integrate this measurement into currency,” Kenny wrote.
“COVID as a decision driver does not ring true,” Cunningham retorted, citing VAB’s analysis of viewing patterns. “We do not see a methodological driver that would justify postponement.”
Originally, the measurement firm had said it would start accounting for viewing outside the home this fall, which would have given networks a much-needed boost as they battle to salvage revenue in a difficult climate. Sports programming is especially impaired by not including out-of-home stats — CBS and Fox have gone as far as issuing updated stats for the Super Bowl, boosting their tallies by as much as 10% over regular linear and digital numbers.
Nielsen now intends to revisit the plan in the first quarter of 2021, but for networks already falling short of projections and lacking the upfront momentum they have had in recent years, that could come too late.
Cunningham faulted Nielsen for not preparing networks for the change.
“‘Blindsiding’ is perhaps the politest way of characterizing how under-communicated and contradictory” the news came across, he wrote. “It was received as a BAD SURPRISE by my industry leaders, who were stunned by the lack of dialogue” prior to the formal suspension.
Nielsen as yet has not elaborated on Kenny’s message or made any further comment on the flap.
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